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Black History

I've studied the Histories of African peoples since childhood. My father was a collector of rare books on the subject. I've done my best to provide source material for the facts I provide here. Occassionally though there is information that I've gained that I cannot locate the source for and am relying upon memory. I'll try to keep these instances to a bare minimum because I want you to be able to verify everything that is stated here.

Here is my list of related links.

African-Origin Resources

Black Inventors

This is one of my favorite subjects: Here is a list of Black Inventors. The list comes from a man named Henry Baker. He was a Black man who worked for the U.S. Patent Office in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He was concerned because blacks seldom got recognition for their inventions. This was partly due to the fact that blacks had no rights during that time and could not enter into a legal agreements. In some parts of the country, blacks were forbidden to testify in court against a white person. These laws prevented blacks from making successful claims against patent infringement. Henry Baker decided to find a way to make sure that blacks who submitted inventions would not be forgotten. When a black person came into the Patent Office to submit their forms, Henry made a special mark on the form that only he could identify. Years later, his code was discovered in what are now known as The Henry Baker Papers. Below is a list of known black inventors - men and women who would be lost to obscurity if not for the inventiveness of Mr. Henry Baker.

The Black Inventors - 1871-1900

If you are interested in black inventors of recent years, look for Hattie Carwell's book, "Blacks In Science". If someone asks, "What have Black people invented lately? Just say "Supercomputers"!

Your library might have Henry Baker's book, "The Colored Inventor - A Record Of Fifty Years", published by Arno Press and The New York Times - N.Y. - 1969. Here's an excerpt:"In a recent correspondence that has reached nearly two-thirds of the more than 12,000 registered patent attorneys in this country, who are licensed to prosecute applications for patents before the Patent Office at Washington, it is astonishing that they never heard of a colored inventor, and not a few of them add that they never expect to hear of one. One practising attorney, writing from a small town in Tennessee, said that he not only has never heard of a colored man inventing anything, but that he and the other lawyers to whom he passed the inquiry in that locality were 'inclined to regard the whole subject as a joke.'"

Thanks, Henry for setting History straight.

Check out C.R. Gibbs' book for more Black Inventors.

If you are interested, here's a link to more turn-of-the-century black heroes.

But keep in mind that we've never stopped being innovators.

A few more Black Inventors

George Crum - 1853 - The Potato Chip
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams - 1893 - Heart Surgery
Seargant Adolphus Samms - 1958-1967 - Invented various systems for space travel including:

  • Parachute release mechanism
  • Rocket engine pump feed system
  • Air frame center support (eliminates need for second and third stage engines)
  • Multiple stage rocket
  • Air breathing booster
  • Emergency release for extraction chute mechanism
  • Rocket motor fuel feed system

Lonnie Johnson - The "Supersoaker" watergun
Flip Wilson - The technical term, "What You See Is What You Get" -- WYSIWYG.

I received this in email on 9/9/97. Added verbatim but formatted for easy reading:

"I am impressed by your work so much that I decided I wanted to be on your list.

My name is William D. Harwell. I work for NASA/Johnson Space Center, where I am employed as a Mechanical Engineer. As such, I designed the hardware for and jointly hold patent #'s

5,368,090 (Nov, 1994) -- Geometrical Vapor Blocker for Parallel Condensation Tubes Requiring Subcooling;
4,921,292 (May 1990) -- Magnetic Attachment Mechanism and;
4,664,344 (May 1987) -- Apparatus and Method of Capturing an Orbiting Spacecraft."

And he's impressed by my work... You can knock me over with a feather.

Serious Inventor Resources:

Ronald J. Riley Home Page - Inventor & Entrepreneur
Inventor's Patent Trademark Copyright Resource

Student Resources:

Nubian School


Black Contributors to World History

Some of the information here is from a man named J. A. Rogers. He was a war correspondent for Pittsburgh Pennsylvania's black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier during the Ethiopian/Italian war. He did extensive research on black contributors to world history. His most famous book, "World's Great Men of Color", published by Collier Books, revealed the racial identities of many famous men and women who were previously assumed to be white. He also lists many lesser-known black contributors to world history. His book has an extensive bibliography for those who want to verify his research. J. A. Rogers was aided in his research by his wife, Helga who continues to be influential in bringing to light the many contributions made by blacks throughout human history.


Robert Browning

Alexandre Dumas

Ludwig van Beethoven


Black Cowboys

There were many Black cowboys in the wild west, some became famous, others were notorious.

Black Indians

Crispus Attucks

"On the snowy night of March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks, a Black Natick Indian, stepped dramatically into U. S. history in Boston. He was the first to fall in the Boston Massacre. Benson J. Lossing, a nineteenth-century historian, transformed Attucks into a Nantucket Indian. To Lossing it seemed wrong to place an Afro-American with Native American blood at the daring first moment of American Independence."

Frederick Douglass

"Frederick Douglass, a slave runaway, with mixed African, Indian, and white ancestry,became the leading voice of black America during the Civil War era and the decades that followed. His creed, 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress,' has inspired reform and revolutionary movements ever since."

Langston Hughes

"Langston Hughes, poet laureate of African-Americans, liked to trace his family tree back to Pocahontas. In that tree also was a man who joined John Brown's famous raid on Harper's Ferry and another who became a Virginia congressman."

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable

" ...The story of a fur trapper named Du Sable leaves no doubt that this handsome black Frenchman married into and remained a good friend of the Illinois Indians. As a Frenchman in a land recently taken by the British, Du Sable fell under suspicion.On July, 4, 1779, a British officer complained he 'was much in the interest of the French' and DuSable was arrested for 'treasonable intercourse with the enemy.' He managed to escape only to be arrested again. This time he so impressed British Governor Patrick Sinclair that Du Sable was released and for five years placed in charge of a settlement on the St. Charles River. Du Sable had no difficulty in persuading local Indians he was a friend. It took much longer for white Chicagoans to recognize that Du Sable was their city's founder."

Indians Also Enslaved Blacks

The Five Civilized Nations

" The Chocktaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Nations were early penetrated by European merchants, missionaries, and government officials. Because they readily accepted Christianity, and European styles in houses and dress, whites began to call them 'The Five Civilized Tribes.' With the notable exception of the Seminoles, some members also became slaveowners."

The Chickasaw treated their black slaves as badly as did the whites, but as for the other slaveholding Indians it is written that:

" Whites who visited slaveholding Indians described slave men and women who were well-treated, adequately fed and cared for. U. S. slaveholders viewed this leniency as a sign Native Americans did not understand bondage. They also thought it posed a danger to their own ability to control their black laborers. If Native Americans did not know how to treat their slaves, then something would have to be done about the Native Americans."

- Black Indians, A Hidden Heritage, William Loren Katz, Published by Atheneum N.Y. 1986 -


African Slave Raiders

Slavery had been widespread in Africa going back to her earliest periods of history. The Egyptians enslaved Semitic and Mediterranean peoples as well as blacks from Nubia. Slavery also thrived in the Greek and Roman Empires whos leaders were themselved educated in Egypt. During these periods, slaves had many opportunities for education and cultural advancement. Slavery was not seen as being a demeaning trade and many slaves rose to high social positions due to their intelligence and training.

Muslims invaded Africa and took black women for their harems. They took black men and forced them into military service and menial work. "As Negro kings and princes embraced Islam, they cooperated with the Arabians in the exportation of human cargo. Long before the extensive development of the slave trade in the hands of Europeans, many of the basic practices of the international slave trade had already been established."

Europeans entered the slave trade almost immediately after the discovery of a new world in 1492. They introduced the harshest form of slavery ever seen in human history. People were torn, not only from theirs homes and families, they were stripped of their religion, their language, their culture, everything that was familiar was taken away. They were not allowed to sing their native songs, play native instruments, and were forbidden to learn to read and write the language of their masters. In the course of exersizing this new form of slavery, the Europeans (primarily the English, Dutch, and Portugese. Spain was banned from Africa by papal decree but could give "asiento" to others to supply slaves to Spanish colonies) elicited the help of local chiefs - often at gunpoint, more often by bribes. In fact, "Fierce wars broke out between tribes when the members of one sought to capture members of another to sell them to the traders. Slaves brought to the post for sale were always chained, for the caboceers (native middlemen who arranged the raids) and slave captains very early learned that without such safeguards the slaves would make their escape."

Slaves were traded for "Cotton textiles of all descriptions, utensils of brass, pewter, and ivory, boxes of beads of many sizes and shapes, guns and gunpowder, spirits - whiskey, brandy, and rum - and a variety of foodstuffs..." Not mentioned in the book is hemp (marijuana) which was grown in the colonies (by George Washington amoung others) for rope and as a narcotic. It was also traded for slaves. According to George Washington's diary, he inhaled.

- From Slavery to Freedom, A history Of Negro Americans, Fourth Edition, John Hope Franklin, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. N.Y. 1974 -


Some Free Blacks Owned Slaves

The majority of black slaveowners had managed to purchase members of their own family - in effect, buying their freedom. There were some blacks who purchased slaves for the sole purpose of economic gain. Amoung these were Cyprian Ricard who owned ninety-one slaves and an estate in Louisiana. Charles Rogues owned forty-seven slaves, and Marie Metoyer owned fifty-eight slaves.

- From Slavery to Freedom, A history Of Negro Americans, Fourth Edition, John Hope Franklin, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. N.Y. 1974 -


Strange Laws

Back in Alabama around 1901 there was a Constitutional Convention designed to deny Blacks and poor whites the right to vote. The wealthy white men of Alabama wanted to control the government and lower their taxes and reduce the amount of government interference in their business affairs. Frank S. White of Birmingham stated, "We have disfranchised the African in the past by doubtful methods; but in the future we will disfranchise... [him] by law."

By a long campaign of pitting the Blacks (represented primarily by the Republicans) against the poor whites (represented primarily by the Populists), they were able to get the "Black Belt" to vote against their own interests in favor of the Constitutional Convention. The convention president, John B. Knox said, in his opening address to the convention, that the pledge of no white disfranchisement did not extend, "beyond the right of the voters now living". Meaning that the new law would not disfranchise the current generation of poor white voters but the generation to follow could lose their right to vote. The Convention resulted in the repeal of liberal suffrage laws, replacing them with very stringent voting requirements. Knox's clever presentation of the suffrage reforms so impressed the Viginian assembly that they abandoned their own voting rights amendments and adopted the Alabama plan in total. [My grandfather was Knox's chauffeur. - Ed.]

"The permanent plan to establish voting requirements turned from military service and ancestors to other matters. A prospective voter had to reside in the state for two years, his county for one year, and his ward for three months. On or before February 1 in an election year, he had to pay a poll tax of $1.50, retroactive to 1901 or to the year when voting age was reached. Either the voter or his wife had to own real or personal property worth $300 or more or forty acres of land on which the taxes had been paid. The potential voter had to be able to read and write any article in the constitution -- in English -- and that meant to the satisfaction of the registrars. He must have been engaged in a lawful business for the previous year and could never have been convicted of crimes ranging from treason and murder to vagrancy and buying votes. While the poor white might initially win a vote under the ancestry clauses, it would not be difficult to disfranchise him after 1903. The black man had almost no chance at all."

- Alabama, The History of a Deep South State, Rogers, Ward, Atkins, Flynt, pub. The University of Alabama Press, p. 347. -

After the Revolutionary War, many laws were put into place to control blacks. Among these was a law that forbade blacks from testifying against whites in court. Ironically, the author of that particular law was murdered by his brother. A slave was the only witness to the murder, but the murderer was protected by law from the slave's testimony. The brother was never prosecuted, and instead inherited his murdered brother's wealth.

I still can't find the book I read this in. It's a great story and I'll leave it in but you can file it under mythology until I can find the source for it.

In 1836 Congress introduced the gag rule so that any anti-slavery petition would be laid on the table and ignored. This was considered to be a direct violation of the Constitution. The gag rule was lifted in 1845 due to intervention by President John Quincy Adams.

- The Chronological History of the Negro in America, Bergman, pub. Harper & Row, Publishers - 1969, p. 157 -

Things I Remember

Almost every Black person in America has had experiences dealing with racism. My experiences are not unique.
In fact, there were many more than I'm relating here, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind.

Things I Remember

I've often been asked if I hate white people for what they did to me and other Black people. I dislike the individual people who've wronged me and I despise the racism and ignorance that spawned their behavior.

Hating an entire group of people is a self-destructive waste of time.